Wednesday, March 4, 2009
The Qatar Chronicles: Landing in Doha
On our delivery flight from Seattle to Doha, the coach cabins were completely empty and only 20 business class seats were occupied on the 259 seat Boeing 777-200LR. But we weren't complaining. We relaxed, slept, read, and watched movies.
When we arrived in Doha in the afternoon, the pilot announced that we would make an approach low over the field but not land. We assumed this was the airplane's "salute" to its new home. We discovered it was something else entirely.
Traditionally, the first time a new model of an aircraft is delivered to Qatar Airways, fire trucks welcome the plane with an archway of water. Since our plane was the second Boeing 777-200LR, there would be no ceremony.
When we flew low over the field we saw that we were in fact getting a welcoming. There were a hundred or more yellow jacketed men and women and dozens of men in traditional white Arabic robes and headdresses.
When the plane landed, red carpeted stairs were pushed up to the plane but we couldn't leave, not just yet. We were part of a celebratory photograph. We discovered that our plane had been christened "Gaza" in support of the Palestinian people after the recent conflict.
At that moment we learned that in the Middle East, everything can become political, even the delivery of a new airplane.